As I drove Haz off the Cook Strait ferry, crossing the gangplank to enter Picton, I made eye contact with one of the crew who was guiding the vehicles. He smiled and saluted me in military style. As I returned the grand gesture I felt excitement wash over me, the next stage of our adventure had begun – me’n Haz in the Wild South!
I turned Haz towards Nelson where I planned to camp out for the night. I awoke to a stunning view of the beach, surrounded by expensive looking houses, and made a cup of tea to drink as I enjoyed the splendour of the scene. I was on "Parkers Rd" #vanlife.
In the morning I picked up my friend Helen from the airport, who was excited to meet Haz, and we all drove to Nelson Lakes together for the next leg of the journey. We were staying in St Arnaud with Hugh Norris who was previously the Director of Strategy, Advocacy, and Research for the Mental Health Foundation. Hugh is a person who deeply understands the connection between NZ’s mental health problems and systemic issues, so I mentioned the idea of him being my mentor. He said that he's not into the word mentor; preferring a dynamic where we learn off each other, and pointed out that young people are often his teachers...damn he's good! Hugh took Helen and I tramping around Lake Rotoiti and we stayed in Coldwater Hut at the wild side of the lake. As the fire roared that night, we discussed the development of consciousness throughout history and begun an enquiry into the nature of our present developments as a species. I remember going outside to piss in the middle of the night and as I contemplated the conversation I looked around in awe at the frozen landscape, noticing the reflection of the stars glistening on the lake in the darkness of the new moon. A shooting start shot across the sky. This moment sparked a epic creative idea for collaboration with a friend in the future, which will hopefully be brought to life in time. Keep your ears open for it ;).
Hugh put us up in his family batch for a few days and then generously gifted us the use of his home while his partner, Tracy, and himself were attending the Wanaka film festival. During this time, I filmed and edited Focus Ep3 myself, which was my first solo project. The creative experience was empowering! As the sun set after filming in the bush on my own, I saw a beautiful Mandarin duck that looked like David Bowie swim elegantly past. I experienced something rising up from within me, which burst out in a feeling of pure joy – on that day I had glimpsed an expression of the artist in myself. I later discovered the duck’s existence at Lake Rotoiti is a mystery and the local Doc rangers have named it Alphonso. It was as if the open mountainous environment helped me open up to a part of myself that had been repressed. The tricky part now is to find the balance between the scientist and the artist in myself.
I learnt a lot from my time with Helen, who is a powerful woman with a strong feminine side. She was not shy to “Call In” my more dominating masculine behaviour at times, and although it was challenging to hear I found myself sitting with the way this made me feel and striving to change my behaviour. I also made sure to assert my own boundaries by honestly expressing my feelings about her behaviour too (now that was challenging for me to do!) and soon we reached a lovely balance in each other’s company as she worked on her Masters and I edited videos. After she returned north, I discovered she had left a small pottery moon under my pillow as a reminder to keep balancing the sunny side of my personality with the coolness of the moon. It felt like I earned a talisman.
After a few days creating in solitude I jumped back in Haz and journeyed onwards to Fox Glacier, picking up a hitchhiker called Elie on the way and visiting my good friend Mara who was staying with a skilled and inspiring carver in Hokatika. Elie and I saw some huge rainbows on the road to Fox, which has led to ongoing contemplations about the true nature of light.
I had arranged to stay with a good mate of mine at Fox, who I first met during my early years at university – Alex Hooper. He’s being living in Fox Glacier for years and has studied original maps of the area by famous NZ explorers like Charles Douglas, AP Harper, and Alec Graham. It was time to experience a cornerstone root of NZ Pakeha culture by getting a taste of the lifestyle led by many pioneer men. Alex gifted me an oil skin hat, so I looked the part - a regular new chum.
We packed our swags, which included a small sluice for prospecting gold. Alex reckoned we wouldn’t need his larger wooden sluice, affectionately named Big Bertha. We set off in the morning following The Cook river to a spot he had thoughtfully selected due to the way gold would have travelled down the river, and we spent the next few hours digging and pouring stones into the sluice while standing in the freezing glacial waters. As we were working Alex informed me that most people hate him after he takes them out prospecting for the first time “I’ve discovered that other people don't always enjoy the same things as me, like hard physical labor for fun” (smiles cheekily). He talked about how it’s not about the gold; it’s the process he enjoys which gets him out into nature, focused completely on the task, and involves learning and problem solving, “the golds just a wee bonus to top it off”. His Kiwi ingenuity could be easily seen by some of the contraptions he had invented and built to streamline the process.
We then adventured up The Cook river and followed some of the old trails in the bush. Alex pointed out machete marks in trees from past explorers blazing trails. There were gigantic boulders at the bottom of the valley as we progressed further up the river, which meant we had to crawl through small tunnels and traverse icy rocks. Safe to say I slipped several times, but I enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone and Alex provided a helping hand at times. I swallowed my pride and accepted the support as a serious fall could be disasterous. On the way we saw Alex’s boss who had been hunting and I filmed him shooting his magnum rifle. He pointed out a native Whio duck (it’s on the $10 note) floating down the rapids, which I had never seen before and it really topped off the day for me.
Back in town Alex’s partner, Christina who works at Fox Guides, arranged a Helicopter hike for me up the glacier to support my mahi….yeah I know right, I’m one lucky guy! I got some sweet shots from the chopper and had heaps of fun walking and sliding on the glacier. Christina also took her friend Lizzy and I out to watch a beautiful West Coast sunset. We sat next to a bonfire with cold beers roasting sausages and sharing experiences. I have so much gratitude for Alex’s and Christina’s gifts of true West Coast experiences.
As I write this my friend Mel sent me a beautiful design for my business car, which I'm really excited about – check out her stuff! This weekend I’m going to go shoot a shotgun for the first time and film the episode of Focus, which is all about being calm as we go about our lives. Stay tuned and much peace.